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New Mexico

Staff Q&A with Steve Bassett

The Nature Conservancy’s newest team member in New Mexico, Steve Bassett, uses advanced computer mapping called Geographic Information System (GIS) to unravel challenging conservation issues.

The cartographer talked with nature.org about the stories maps tell and how he’ll never get lost as long as he has one.
I’ve always been into outdoor activities, and maps become part of that as soon as you venture out into the wilderness.

-Steve Bassett

Nature.org:

Have you always been into maps?

Steve Bassett:

I’ve always been into outdoor activities, and maps become part of that as soon as you venture out into the wilderness. Also as a kid I would spend hours reading National Geographic and examining the maps.

Nature.org:

Have you ever gotten lost?

Steve Bassett:

Fortunately, no. I can usually find my way, especially if I have a map!

Nature.org:

How are maps a part of your job at the Conservancy?

Steve Bassett:

I’m working to get the most out of the scientific data we have. Paper maps only go so far.

There is a tremendous amount of data available, and figuring out how the different layers of data influence each other over a landscape can be very informative. We maintain a database for the places we work with all sorts of geospatial data that can be used to understand what’s going on.

For instance, wildland fires are very geospatial. When a fire burns, there are different attributes about the land and the trees and the climate that made the fire act the way it did.

It’s hard to separate any topic from its geographic component, and GIS is a critical conservation tool to show us everything from where important migrations happen, to where and why forests are dying.

Nature.org:

What were you doing before joining the Conservancy’s team in New Mexico?

Steve Bassett:

I was working as a cartographer for an atlas of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, a really exciting project that will be published soon.

Nature.org:

What are you looking forward to most in your new job?

Steve Bassett:

I’m looking forward to using science to help conservation. These projects are the best opportunity to address the challenges we’re facing, and the Conservancy is a really dynamic organization that can respond to changes better than anyone else.


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